It's been three months. I'm very sorry. I know you have all been losing sleep every night anxiously waiting for some news. The truth is that the news pertaining to these last few months was so overwhelming that I just couldn't quite form nice, pretty words for you. I was afraid that if you read me last February or January, you would miscontrue many of the events happening in Guatemala. So I waited to write until I felt ready.
I'm ready. Last time we spoke, I was gearing up to spend my one month vacation leave with my family in Brazil. I left and came back to a Guatemala very different from the one I had left. Due to increasing security concerns, Peace Corps D.C. implemented a number of changes that would affect literally almost every volunteer in the country. As a result, many volunteers were forced to change sites and many others were required to leave a few months early. What does this mean? Very angry volunteers. Super Oober Chaos. Disappointed, demoralized staff. During that time, I was very angry too. I didn't feel ready to write to you. I felt heartbroken, cheated. How could I, a "senior" third-year volunteer, show optimism to other volunteers looking up to me? I still don't know what the answer to that is. There wasn't really a "quiet after the storm," rather a massive flurry of volunteers getting their things together, changing sites, and many others closing their service and pre-returning to the United States. In the middle of it all though, I heard a common voice - "Well, ok, this is happening to me. And you know what? I am going to be ok." I know it sounds cheesy, but I sort of look up to these volunteers and staff as they rushed to deal with the 1,001 problems being passed onto them. I look back at these last two months, I look back at all the challenges and tears, and I feel better, I feel stronger. I really hope other volunteers can do the same.
Let me make one thing clear - we are all very safe. But Peace Corps, like any other government agency functioning on taxpayer dollars is a bureaucratic agency, responsible for the children of many anxious parents who are seeing their "babies" fly from home from the first time. Peace Corps has changed, as has the world and society that we live in today. We are dependent on technology, being connected, and lawsuits. So is Peace Corps. I don't know if I have exactly forgiven Peace Corps for what happened in these last few months but my point is this - It is an agency that has become a direct reflection of our society. It is an agency full of safety and security regulations that mirror our own co-dependency as a society in the United States. I am not excusing, I have just understood, and I am moving forward.
I am moving forward. I am finishing my last few months in Guatemala as I prepare for Graduate School in the fall. As I finish, I have come to acceptance about the beauty and sadness around me; the two juxtaposed worlds that mangle Guatemala. As for work? Well, earlier this month, we directed and produced our second-ever multilingual production of the Vagina Monologues with Population Council's Abriendo Oportunidades program. This year, the production was bigger than ever, with monologues being presented in spanish, english and several mayan languages (Kiche', Kechi', Tzutuhil, Mam, kachikel, Poquoman.) It also included the participation of 39 women, ranging from rural indigenous girls, to transgendered women from the capital and peace corps volunteers. We were sold out before the show even started! But I didn't care much about that, what really awed me was the diversity of participants who for the first time in their lives shared an empowered voice through the words they read. They learned about the woman behind the monologue and I hope a wee bit about the powerful woman within them.
The other day, while we were reflecting about the event with Ale, the Director of the Abriendo Oportunidades program, she shared this interaction she had with her small niece (could not have been more than 4) - Her niece went up to one of the transgendered women after the show and asked, "Are you really a girl?" and the woman answered affirmatively. Confused, the niece commented to Ale, "She doesn't look like a girl..." Ale answered, "Well, there are some little boys that grow up to be girls; and there are little girls that grow up to be boys; and there are little boys that grow up to become boys and little girls that grow up to become girls." The niece understood now and she then asked suspicously, "Can they still chew gum?" Ale answered affirmitavely. The niece, relieved, answered in approval, "Oh ok." I don't know why this story stuck with me so much. It seemed so simple in the little niece's eyes. How could we, as adults, not be able to do the same?
Well, I guess 3 months of not writing to you has enabled this blog entry to run a little long. What am I up to today? Currently I am enjoying a nice cafecito at a fancy coffee shop in my department capital and gearing up for a charla this afternoon with a group of local sex workers (I'll update you on this more later.) I am also working on a scholarhip application so I can ACTUALLY afford grad school and am procrastinating preparing a 3 day reproductive health workshop I'm suppose to give in two days. Doble whoops. But it will all get done, poco a poco. It's Guatemala.
Two indigenous leaders of the "Abriendo Oportunidades" program, performing "The Vagina Workshop"
Women from the organization OTRANS from the capital, who work for the rights of Transgendered women in Guatemala
Group shot of the 39 participants!!